Liverpool will take the only 100 per cent record in the Premier League to Stamford Bridge next week, after a visit to Chelsea’s least favourite away ground produced stalemate and the end of a run of straight victories for Maurizio Sarri.
Try as they might Chelsea could not turn five into six at a ground where they have won just once in four visits. Ironically, the only team that seems as averse to winning at the London Stadium are West Ham themselves.
West Ham: Fabianski, Zabaleta, Diop, Balbuena, Masuaku, Rice
Yarmolenko, Obiang, Noble (Sanchez 85), Felipe Anderson (Snodgrass 74), Antonio (Perez 65).
Subs not used: Cresswell, Adrian, Ogbonna, Fredericks.
Yellow cards: Anderson, Snodgrass
Chelsea: Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Rudiger (Cahill 69), Luiz, Alonso, Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic (Barkley 79), Willian, Giroud (Morata 65), Hazard.
Subs not used: Fabregas, Caballero, Moses, Zappacosta.
Yellow cards: Kante
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)
This was a good point for the home side, though, after such a dismal start to the season. A stretch of four defeats with upcoming matches against Everton, Chelsea and Manchester United left many fearing the worst. Instead, following an unexpected win at Goodison Park, a rejuvenated West Ham took a hard-fought point from a team that will consider itself title contenders – and could have had more were it not for a horrid miss from Andriy Yarmalenko.
When Robert Snodgrass battled through on the left with 13 minutes to go, his cross found Yarmalenko entirely unmarked at the far post. There was no better chance all game, yet somehow the Ukrainian couldn’t even get his header on target.
Not that Chelsea could have complained too bitterly had it gone in. Though they saw a lot of the ball, particularly in the second-half, they rarely turned that supremacy into chances. Indeed, in the second-half, their finest scoring opportunities came in two phases of the same play, seconds apart.
For the first, Willian found a surprisingly ineffective Eden Hazard, and his back heel was cut out by Issa Diop before Alvaro Morata could get there with the goal gaping. From the resulting corner, the ball was recycled by Willian, and Yarmalenko missed his kick. David Luiz got a touch and it fell to Morata, who shot struck Lukasz Fabianski in the face. Breathe, and relax.
True, Ross Barkley could have won it at the last when he was played in by Hazard and his shot from range was tipped round – but this was disappointing from Chelsea after so much early promise. After Liverpool have come to town next week, we will know where they really stand.
When the first 45 minutes passes and Chelsea’s most consistent threat has been N’Golo Kante in the air, it is fair to say the defensive strategy is working. Manuel Pellegrini went with no strikers – in the absence of the injured Marko Arnautovic – but plenty of resilience through the middle where Chelsea do some of their best work.